BA Club Suite vs Club World

Usually for my flights across the Atlantic, I’m up at the crack of dawn so it was quite a nice treat to be on BA93 to Toronto at 1145. Shame that the dude on bag drop wasn’t in such a good mood! Couldn’t have been more disinterested! Welcome to Heathrow Airport!

After dumping the bags with Mr Happy, we headed for security but our boarding passes wouldn’t scan, a few people were having the same issue. The security staff were disinterested (bit of theme here?) and stood chatting in their little group whilst passengers tried to figure out the problem. Eventually, we were directed to a BA guy who, bless him, was already looking really hassled and it wasn’t even 9am! He was doing his best, battling BA’s notoriously dodgy IT and he was calm and polite whilst trying to reset or reprint boarding passes. Once ours was reset, it worked fine, and we were on our way. As it turned out, we were lucky. By the time we got to Toronto, it was all over the news about a complete meltdown (again!) of BA’s systems at Heathrow and hundreds of flights were cancelled. Phew, narrow escape there!

Having tried both Galleries North and South during my Bahamas trip, I’d learnt that Galleries South was my favourite lounge so we headed there for breakfast. The lounge was busy but we managed to get a table for 2, not too far from the windows so we had some light. Man, this place is grotty. I bet there’s Travelodges in better shape. The furniture is worn, with bits hanging off it, the walls are all scuffed with food spilled down them. The cups and glasses were dirty, even after being put back out, and the staff couldn’t bring them out fast enough. I get the volume of traffic through this lounge, but there’s really no excuse for how shoddy everything is. It’s embarrassing. I would say that the quality of the food was better than last time, although I over ordered on fruit!

We caught the transit train to B gates and boarded at about 1105. I was intrigued to be trying out BA’s “old” Club World as had always read about how it hadn’t aged well and lagged behind what other airlines were offering nowadays. Not many airlines still have a 2-3-2 configuration in business class, for example, and I’ve been spoiled by Qatar Airways! Even the worst airline I’ve ever had the displeasure of dealing with has a 1-2-1 config. It’s actually weird to think that this seat was revolutionary when it was debuted in 2000, although the seat we had was second generation and came out in 2006. This interesting article on Executive Traveller chronicles its inception.

I managed to snaffle seat 1A during online check-in (it annoys me that BA charges an extortionate amount of money to select a seat before check-in opens, £80-£100 per person per flight is far from an acceptable) and explored the seat.

The first thing I noticed is the lack of storage. Apart from the shoe drawer, and I’m a fan of the shoe drawer, there’s nowhere to stash your stuff. And I have a lot of stuff on long flights – water, lip balm, eye mask, ear plugs, phone charger. I don’t fly long haul for work but I can’t imagine this is a great seat for a business traveller with a laptop, note pad etc.

The cabin definitely shows it’s age despite the 787 Dreamliner we were flying on only being 7 years old, but the yin-yang design doesn’t feel as cramped as I imagined it would be. One interesting factor about this seat design is that the window seats are all rear facing (aisle seats all face forwards) and I enjoyed the novelty of facing backwards, especially as I had 3 windows to myself which was great for takeoff and landing.

For couples, friends or familiar colleagues, this seat is perfect and I much preferred to be able to face the other half and chat whilst we had lunch, but it must be awkward facing a stranger until you can raise the privacy screen after takeoff. The middle seat in the middle of the cabin must be a nightmare, facing off with potentially 2 strangers! One downside of the rear facing seats is having to step over the feet of the passenger behind (in front?) of you if they’re in bed mode. This generally wasn’t an issue for a nimble 37 year old, but might be for someone older or less stable on their feet.

The crew came around with champagne and water and then menus for lunch. We picked our films and settled in for the 7 hour 28 minutes flight.

Lunch was really good. The Do&Co caterers did a good job! I wasn’t a huge fan of the red pepper cauliflower but that’s not to say it had a bad flavour, it’s just not my kind of thing. The beef rib, however, was one of the best meals I’ve had on a plane. A nice sliver of beef fat added to the tenderness. And the yorkie pud, it must have been cooked with butter, it was delicious. My only gripe is it being served on one tray, which most airlines have stopped doing already. Good ol’ BA, behind the curve! I was worried the main would be cold by the time I’d eaten the starter, but it was just hot enough. The dessert was also excellent. I loved the raspberry coulee along the bottom of the dish.

After a very tasty lunch, a few glasses of champagne and a very strong G&T, I slept for a good hour. One good thing about the seat design is that I felt really cocooned and cosy between the window and the privacy screen which made sleeping really easy.

As the crew were still “limiting contact”, refreshments were self service in the galley so I headed to have a nosey at what was on offer. To be fair, there was some crew milling around and one of them brought my vodka and coke to my seat after I ordered it. Half a glass of vodka is a bit intense though!

About 90 minutes before landing, afternoon tea was served. The afternoon tea is good, the sandwiches were tasty but it’s bit on the small side. I enjoyed the scone, which was warm and the builders tea was just how I like it! One thing I will give credit for is BA crews know how to make a proper cuppa.

For our return, it was a quick 25 minutes drive from our hotel in Downtown Vancouver to the airport. Considering it was rush hour, I was impressed. There’s bus/taxi lane nearly all the way, which meant very little obstruction. The downside was that we arrived about 20 minutes before check-in opened and there was already a queue, even for Club World. With only 1 flight a day at the moment, there’s no reason for BA to open check-in early.

After dropping the bags, we were sent via domestic security and the line was massive. I assume international security was closed because there were only about 5 flights leaving and not worth manning the belts for that number of passengers. Fortunately, we had fast track with our business class flight but I had to ask if there was a fast track queue as there wasn’t a sign for it. We hadn’t been told we had fast track by the check-in agent and it’s not shown on the boarding pass but if you are flying business or first, you can fast track.

We were through fairly quickly and despite doing a bit of shopping in the duty free, were still in the lounge a good 10 minutes before other passengers who checked in at the same time as us. I guess they hadn’t asked about the secret fast track queue.

The Plaza Premium Lounge was almost empty when we arrived and looked very classy with the low lighting and comfy chairs. It was definitely in a better state than the BA lounge at Heathrow. Generally, I loved Vancouver airport and thought it was a great space. Probably the best looking departure lounge I’ve ever be

There was a selection of wines and beers free of charge as well as some upgrade options, such as champagne and cocktails. The sandwiches and hot food looked really good but we weren’t hungry after our massive lunch at Mary’s on Davie Street.

We left the lounge about 2000 to find our gate for boarding at 2015. The gate area was packed so it was definitely a busy flight. But no one was boarding and we weren’t being told anything. Eventually, we were told about an issue with the machine used to unload the luggage which had broken down and needed to be fixed before our luggage could be loaded.

We boarded and pushback was exactly an hour after our scheduled departure at 2205. We seemed to taxi for ages and had 2 safety briefings. I’ve never had that before on a flight and wondered if this was a Final Destination moment as me and the other half eyeballed each other. We finally took off at 2227, an hour and 22 minutes late and been on the plane almost an hour before we set off.

I do like the new Club Suite. Over the previous design, the amount of storage makes a big difference. There’s 5 little cubbyholes for your stuff, of different sizes, so handy for notepads, laptops etc. No shoe drawer though!

Qatar Airways shoe drawer

The climb out of Vancouver seemed slow. It was a gradual climb to altitude which seemed to take forever. My first glass of Besserat de Bellefon rose Champagne was served at around 2305. I always tell myself I’m not going to drink on night flights so I sleep better, but I never stick to it!

We were in seats 11A and 12A, so in the “rear” business class cabin on the 777. This section of business class is smaller than the front section, so feels a bit more intimate, but you have to contend with the whole plane trudging past you during boarding and the risk of not getting your first choice of meal with the front cabin getting served first. Supper started in the front cabin at about 2330 and reached us at 2347, both of us got our preferred choice.

I was done eating by 0015 and enjoying a third glass of champagne. The quinoa salad was good but the kale made the quinoa flick out of the dish so it was quite messy! The beef was fine, but not as good as the outbound. It was a bit tough and rumpy, but fine. I enjoyed the veggies which were cooked just right.

The chocolate dessert was ok, but the quince jelly was excellent. Overall though, not the best meal I’ve had on BA. The bread was good, as always!

I finished with a chamomile tea by 0040 and settled to watch the end of the American Pickle before trying to get some sleep.

I did notice that the IFE system was different to what we had on the outbound flight and to the previous Club Suite flights to and from the Bahamas. I did like the -/+ 30 second skip and the map features were better. Generally, the IFE isn’t as good as Qatar or Virgin.

With exactly an hour left, breakfast was served. I enjoyed the tang of the sun dried tomato pesto but having literally just woke up, my stomach really wasn’t ready for food so I ended up scooping the scrambled egg and spinach filling out of the focaccia and leaving the bread! The muesli and yoghurt was good and the cuppa tea was nice and strong. Are BA crew specifically trained in brew making?

We touched down at 1525, exactly an hour late, so we had made up about 20 minutes of the delay. Unfortunately, we lost all of that waiting for a gate and sat on the tarmac until 1545. We disembarked by row and we finally got off the plane at 1550. At least we parked next to an A380, one of my favourite aircraft even though I’ve only flown on it once.

To be fair, we were at baggage claim by 1605 after getting the transit train from C gates. I could see that my bag had also arrived because of the AirTag I’d put in it, so that was reassuring!

Date of trip; February/March 2022

Price paid; 56,250 Avios + £666.00 per person, using an Amex Premium Plus 2-4-1 voucher.

Points earned; 1998 Avios for paying with the BA Premium Plus Amex card.

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